Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'a pawn' in diplomatic row over arms payments, experts claim

7 March 2021, 13:59

By Seán Hickey

An outstanding £400 million bill for tanks bought from Iran could be behind Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention.

News broke that British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been freed from her ankle tag on Sunday, which releases her from her five year detention in Iran on a range of charges.

Diplomatic editor at The Guardian Patrick Wintour told Tom Swarbrick that "it looks slightly bittersweet" because although she is no longer confined to her house, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe "will have to return to the Iranian revolutionary court in about a week's time," to face charges of propaganda against the regime.

The expert told LBC that "all this is much wrapped up in international diplomacy," hinting that the Iranian regime sway governments by their detaining of foreign nationals.

Tom wondered to what extent Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention "is connected to the decisions around reentering the Iran nuclear agreement." Mr Wintour believed that there are other diplomatic issues at play.

He revealed that the UK "owes 400 million pounds" to Iran for a shipment of military tanks which haven't been paid for in full.

Read More: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe saga 'failure' of British diplomacy, husband fears

Because of this, and because of the politics surrounding the Iran nuclear deal, "she's really a pawn" in the eyes of the journalist.

"The foreign office has stressed there is no link between the money and her detention but I personally don't believe that," Mr Wintour said.

Earlier on Andrew Castle spoke to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's MP Tulip Siddiq who highlighted the link between the military deal and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention.

She confirmed that despite disputes, an international court "decided that we do owe Iran the money," and the UK's reluctance to pay in full has impacted Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe directly.

"There's a direct correlation between every time there's one of those hearings for the debt is delayed, there's some kind of repercussion for Nazanin in Iran."

"Something happens every single time," she assured Andrew.

"No one has ever acknowledged the link between the debt and Nazanin's imprisonment but Nazanin was told by a guard in prison that that's why she's been imprisoned"

Andrew wondered if the payment in full of the debt "would secure Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release," but Ms Siddiq warned that it isn't that simple.

Although "it's a significant factor in her not being released yet," she couldn't guarantee that such a commitment would ensure Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's freedom.